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Azumanga Daioh Complete Collection (anime review)

azumanga-daiohTitle: Azumanga Daioh Complete Collection

Director: Hiroshi Nishikiori

Studio: J.C.Staff

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Re-release Date: May 3rd, 2016

Format: DVD / 26 Episodes / 650 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Absurdity, Slice of Life

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

For the members of Miss Yukari’s English Class, a typical day may be just a little unusual. Part of that’s due to Miss Yukari herself, whose teaching style (and personal ethics) tend to be odd, improvisational and spontaneous, but her students are just as unconventional: There’s 10-year-old Chiyo, still at the top of her class after skipping five grades, and her opposite Ayumu “Osaka” Kasuga, whose poor grades are surpassed only by her horrific skill at sports. Then there’s Tomo, a competitive slacker who puts excessive energy into doing very little, and Koyomi, whose surprising maturity is compromised by a malevolent sense of humor. Tall, statuesque Sakaki’s athletic exterior hides both unexpected shyness and a most unfortunate obsession with cats, while tiny Kaori’s heart is mainly obsessed with Sakaki. They may all seem like perfectly normal girls on the outside, but even their most mundane activities magically become the most extraordinary adventures as they learn all about life, the universe and affairs of the heart in AZUMANGA DAIOH!

Commentary:

I was very happy to see that Sentai Filmworks was going to bring this gem back to life. The series as a whole is rather wonderful with its simple yet complex look on life and a rather perverted view of itself. I truly enjoy it for its rather absurd approach to the story and the silly character development.

The other aspect that I loved was the general happiness that ran throughout each episode. Azumanga Daioh is a older series that deserves to remain in the current lexicon on anime.

Overall Grade: A-

Okay, Anime fans lets set the record straight there are plenty of older anime series that should never get re-issued and plenty of series that should have never made their way over to North America. In the case of Azumanga Daioh neither of these are true. This series should have gotten picked up the day the original license was dropped. Thank you Sentai Filmworks for bringing this back to us. There is a whole new generation of anime fans that need to see this series just because it is great and a smile factory.

If you don’t own this series you must go out and buy it now. You will not be appointed.

Space Dandy Season 2 (anime review)

Space-Dandy-Season-2Title: Space Dandy Season 2

Director: Shinichiro Watanabe, Shingo Natsume

Studio: Bones

Producer: Square Enix

U. S. Distributor: Funimation Entertainment

U. S. Release Date: September 22, 2015

Format: DVD / Blu-ray / 13 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Comedy, Absurdity

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Space Dandy is a dandy guy in space! This dreamy adventurer with a to-die-for pompadour travels across the galaxy in search of aliens no one has ever laid eyes on. Each new species he discovers earns him a hefty reward, but this dandy has to be quick on his feet because it’s first come first served! Accompanied by his sidekicks, a rundown robot named QT and Meow the cat-looking space alien, Dandy bravely explores unknown worlds inhabited by a variety aliens. Join the best dressed alien hunter in all of space and time as he embarks on an adventure that ends at the edge of the universe!

Commentary:

Space Dandy Season 2 upholds the insanity that started off on the first half of the series and takes you to another level of both stupidity and confusion. To say the least I found myself enjoying this group of episodes much better than the first group. Even with the story taking on so many strange turns and nonsensical events that I finally was able to connect with several of the strange group of characters and almost wanted to see two of them finally find the love they were searching for.

In this second group of 13 episodes I did discover a side of Dandy that didn’t turn me off and also made it easier to watch. The absurdity that follows in almost every episode kept me scratching my head and made me want to kept watching. I also enjoyed all of homage and parody to Anime and the silly Sci Fi world we all live in. It remixed me of some of the humor from Stein’s Gate but never really gave any focus to how the story wove together. Space Dandy is one of the shows that you can get everything you need from one or two episodes and even after watching all 26 episodes you may still never figure out what it was all about.

Overall Grade: B

I have to say that the last 13 episodes felt much more put together and polished, and at the same time had very little focus. I had many laughs and enough confusion with what was going on to leave me wondering and interested enough to stick with the show. It is truly a strange series with plenty to make you smile.

The true strength of the series is the animation. I saw plenty of work that reminded me of Red Line and also a short anime clip in the live action film A Taste of Tea. The fast movement and colorful blend of color does several things for the series, It keeps the action fresh and also makes everything very lively. There are several episodes that employ a flatter more muted color pallet but the artistic aesthetic keeps the anime fresh and very easy to watch. Over the history of anime there have been many series that employ several different art styles and some of them like Samurai Champloo have managed to he very successful. I’m not sure that Space Dandy will command the iconic status of a classic anime, but only time will tell.

 

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou (anime review)

The Pet Girl of SakurasouTitle:The Pet Girl of Sakurasou complete collection on Blu-ray

Director: Atsuko Ishizuka

Writer: Mari Okada

Studio: J. C. Staff

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: April 14, 2015

Format: Blu-ray / 24 Episodes / 600 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Romantic Comedy, Absurdity, Slice of Life, Drama

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Banished from normal housing for the crime of adopting stray cats, Sorata Kanda’s life has gone to the dogs and he’s been impounded in Sakura Hall, a notorious den of troublemakers, geniuses and weirdos. Since he has a penchant for taking in small, cute but sometimes not completely loveable creatures, he’s been tasked with keeping fellow resident Mashiro Shiina, an acclaimed but highly dysfunctional and unfocused artist, from forgetting to eat, brush her hair or wear clothes. Then there are the other residents of Sakura Hall, all of whom have their own unique quirks and challenging relationships.

Commentary:

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou has finally been put together as a sin leg set and I think it could have found a good  number of new fans if there was a english dub, but Sentai Filmworks is not there yet. Never-the-less this is still a delightful series that doesn’t demand too much of you and at the same time manages to bring on plenty of good feeling toward this strange, but lovable group of misfits. Sorata may be portrayed as the normal one of the bunch and in some ways he may fit into everyday society a little better, but I see him as possibly the strangest one of the bunch. The fact that he has a unbridled weakness for cat makes him a huge favorite and he also allows himself to be the center of the group without being a overbearing shining obstacle to all of their uniqueness.

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou is a delightful short series of 24 episodes that manages to give up plenty to smile about. The animation is perfect for the series. It is bright and cheery that helps keep the series in its element. I can’t say that it was powerful or moving like a studio ghibli movie, but it did go well with the story even if it was rather common for 2012/2013 standards.

Overall Personal Grade: B+

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou has a level of drama included that helps keep the story level and even. The trial and tribulations these young people are going through are similar to many of the struggle all of have gone through. Of course a couple of the demons are a little melodramatic but that too is fine because it gives everyone a reason to feel their sadness and also cheer when the rest of the world is being brought into their drama.

Again I feel like this is a great series and in many ways it put older classic slice of life series like Clannad to shame, but it doesn’t have a huge fan base in the states because there is no english dub. I know that there are the hard core fans that want the Japanese voices acting with the english subtitle. I think this is a little bit of a narrow view of things and a flash back to older dubs were they just simply sucked. Over the last few years I have only come across very few anime where the english dub ruins the series. Anyway, in the case of The Pet Girl of Sakurasou I am confident that a solid dub would propel it into the classic status it deserves.

Either way I have to tip my hat to the series and tell everyone that if they haven’t see The Pet Girl of Sakurasou yet then they need to get busy and check it out.

Space Dandy Season One (anime review)

Space Dandy season oneTitle: Space Dandy season 1

Director: Shinichiro Watanabe, Shingo Natsume

Studio: Bones

Producer: Square Enix

U. S. Distributor: Funimation Entertainment

U. S. Release Date: March 3rd, 2015

Format: DVD / Blu-ray / 13 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Comedy, Absurdity

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B-

Space Dandy is a Dandy Guy in Space!”

Synopsis:

Rocket into the outer limits with the one and only Dandy! This dreamy space case and his to-die-for pompadour jet across the galaxy in search of aliens no one has ever laid eyes on. Capturing rare species may pay the bills, baby, but Dandy would rather kick back and enjoy the scenery at the nearest Boobies. Joined by his misfit sidekicks – a rundown vacuum cleaner robot called QT and Meow the alien space cat – Dandy boldly goes where no daper don has ever gone before. Hotly pursued by the chimp-faced Dr. Gel, the adventures of Dandy and the gang will make you laugh, then cry, and then laugh till you cry all over again. Buckle up for blast off, baby! You’re cruising with the Dandy now, and he don’t stop till the end of the universe.

The only real question you have to ask yourself is why are you crying?

Commentary:

Hailed as the next Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy blasted onto the market with a larger than life marketing campaign by Funimation and a mega hyped ideal that can only lead to one possible outcome. That outcome is undoubtedly disappointment and a sense that the sales man got the better of you. Now I can say that it is a home run in the 14 to 25 male age group because of the fixation on the female form and the insane way it confuses the viewer in a large number of the episodes. Of course, the real test is how does if fair amongst the rest of the anime fandom. Strangely enough there is a simplistic following that is not surprising yet rather discouraging.

Space Dandy is not totally devoid of entertainment factors and in many ways it tries to take on the absurd mantle similar to series like Fooly Cooly. It certainly throughs some curve balls at you and leaves you scatting your head as to what is really going on. There is also plenty of comedic relief throughout the series. I did find myself laughing and shaking my head at some of the antics.

Overall Grade: B-

Without being to harsh on this nonsensical series I was disappointed in how the first season has played out. It is very possible that this is a trap the lead us into something new and different in the second half, but until I have see episodes 13-26 I just won’t be able to comment.

The animation is the highlight and the bold artistry provided by the people at Bones is evident and much appreciated. They continue to prove that they take a series and help create something special unto itself. This ability to adapt and give us an art style or styles that compliment the series rather than look like everything else they have done. For Space Dandy Bones has given us a bright and colorful experience that keeps the action moving and also provides eye candy for the brain when the story failed to meet the challenge. I have a funny feeling that the video game would be much more entertaining.

If you love fast funny and somewhat stupid series that are bright and tend to provide a little adrenaline  as to sit back and take it in then Space Dandy is for you. If you are looking for the next Cowboy Bebop then you really need to look elsewhere.

Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl (anime review)

Ground Control to Psychoelectric GirlTitle: Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl standard edition

Director: Akiyuki Shinbo

Studio: Shaft

Written By: Ayana Yuniko

Created By: Hitoma Iruma

U. S. Distributor: NIS America

U. S. Re-release: Dec. 9th, 2014

Format: DVD / Blu-ray / 13 Episodes / 333 minutes

Genre: Harem, Sci Fi, Comedy, Absurdity

Age Rating: TV 13

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

Makoto Niwa just moved to the city to live with his aunt Meme after his parents were reassigned to work overseas. He is perfectly fine with that, saying it will give him the chance to live the dream life of an adolescent boy. He keeps track of the things he does by assigning “points” to them – positive or negative – and adds them up on a regular basis to grade his adolescent life. And then, he discovers Meme has a secret daughter (and self-proclaimed alien) named Erio. He finds her rolling around by the front door of Meme’s house wrapped up in a futon. It is then he realizes that his dream adolescent life will not come true, and begins a life of experiences that are out of this world.

Commentary:

Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl stands out as one of those anime that has a rather simple plot and then turns it on its ear. Basically you have a high school boy coming to live with his aunt and her high school age daughter, to attend high school in the big city. Throw in an aunt who loves to play with Makoto’s head, constantly coming on to him, and then you have Erio who is very cute and believes she is an alien, tending to spend her time rolled up in a futon. This makes things awkward and maybe a little uncomfortable for Makoto, but he takes it with a calm stride and ends up taking on the role of the only responsible one in the house. At the same time, attracting some of the strangest girls in school.

With all the craziness going on in the series there is a simple backbone to the story that keeps it both easy to watch and  to connect to the characters that make up this odd group. Even though it may not be as strange as Arakawa Under the Bridge it still takes on a quirkiness that stays with it all the way through. This off balance plot line helps to show how well it was written. If the story was just strange it would have failed after just a few episodes, but because of the strong concept by Hitoma Iruma and script writing of Ayana Yuniko things go well and you just want to keep watching.

Overall Grade: A-

At its core, Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl, is a silly harem that follows the older harem stories like Love Hina and Ai Yori Aoshi. Over the last five years or so most of the harem series have been all about silly battle concepts like Sekirei or Is This a Zombie?. It is nice to see one come back and the silly comedy that includes strange women and a rather simple high school story line.

If you didn’t get a chance to pick up Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl when it was released in a premium set then now is the time to get it as the standard edition. Thanks, NIS America for keeping this series alive.

Toriko Collection 2 (anime review)

Toriko Collection 2Title: Toriko Collection 2

Director: Akifumi Zako

Writer: Isao Murayama

Studio: Toei Animation

U. S. Distributor: Funimation Entertainment

Release Date: Nov. 4th, 2014

Format: DVD / 24 Episodes / 600 Minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Absurdity, Comedy

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Toriko, Komatsu, and a host of hopeful heroes bundle up and begin the treacherous trek into the chilling confines of Ice Hell! The prize that awaits them, Century Soup, is among the rarest of gourmet treasures – and the most divine delicacy ever to grace a bowl and spoon. Toriko and his super-chef sidekick are determined to slurp up the sweet rewards of their adventure, but something evil stands in their way: Tommyrod, a Gourmet Corps henchman with insects on the inside!

Should they survive this bugged-out battle for the ages, their next target will be the elusive Ozone Grass. Flying Sea Lions and Air Gorillas plague their journey, and in order to savor the sweet taste of success, our heroes will have to take their teamwork to the next level – forever cementing their status as lifelong partners in the pursuit of culinary bliss!

Commentary:

The insanity that is Toriko continues in this second collection and things only get weirder. This is the saving graces for the show because other than that it is just another typical shonen that just moves from one battle to the next. Of course the strange world and that fact that they fight over rare food makes the show not only special but funny too. There are plenty of series that live and die on their humor like Fairy Tail and One Piece, but Toriko makes the humor so bizarre that it does’t have to make you laugh to make it entertaining.

Toriko also take on a style of violence that leaves the opponents alive at the end and only allow for some to people to die. It also takes on death in a very reverent way that also makes a point that you only kill it if you plan on eating it. There is very little waist to life. Many other series have a much more cavalier view of life and the meaning of battle. I really do like that approach and must tip my hat to the series for the respect it show even in the face of utter absurdity.

Overall Grade: B

Toriko collection 2 takes us in a new direction and introduces some very powerful foes. It also does a great job of setting up the series for the underlying plot line. The one area that it doesn’t stand up is in some of the early battle over the Century Soup. I felt like there was just too much back and forth and in the end it was something very unexpected that brought on the final solution. I guess that the downplaying of Toriko’s power is a very typical way of depicting these types of arcs, but after having so many other series set this pattern in place it almost felt like a let down. In fairness Toriko is a Shonen series that follows the standard stereotype for one of these series so I guess this development is to be expected.

All in all, collection 2 is fun and does provide for some great entertainment. Now just bring on the rest.

Toriko Collection 1

Toriko Collection 1Title: Toriko Collection 1

Director: Akifumi Zako

Writer: Isao Murayama

Original Story Created By: Mitsutoshi Shimabukuri

Studio: Toei Animation

U. S. Distributor: Funimation

U. S. Release Date: Aug. 26th, 2014

Format: DVD / 26 Episodes / 650 Minutes

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Food Fantasy, Absurdity

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Age: A-

Synopsis:

Welcome to the Gourmet Age, a time when the world is full of deliciously-deadly ingredients that the wealthiest appetites in existence can’t wait to devour. But only a mighty masticating mercenary like Toriko can track down the rarest animals on the planet and put them on a plate! This gluttonous gourmet hunter is one of the four Legendary Kings, superhuman warriors born to battle the likes of Troll Kongs, Gararagators, Devil Pythons, and the ferocious Regal Mammoth! Accompanied by his loyal Battle Wolf and the promising young chef Komatsu, Toriko will circle the globe in search of the mouth-wateringly lethal ingredients that will one day make up his Full Course Menu of Life!

But there’s more than just tasty beasts on the prowl. Toriko faces stiff competition in the form of a GT Robot. This seemingly-indestructible mechanized menace is controlled by an unseen evil, and it wants all the delectable delicacies for itself. To save his friends and quench his heroic appetite, Toriko must level up his punching power and turn the bad guy into a bucket of bolts!

Commentary:

Ok, there are plenty of strange anime out there and plenty that have a crazy plot line. Toriko has to stand out as one of the most unique series that has maintained a loyal following in Japan, but not as strong a following in the U. S..I find this as a real shame because Toriko is a genuine standout as a series and one of more solid comedies out there. In Japan there are 147 episodes and the manga is on volume 30 and still going. This alone should tell us that Toriko has something to offer. Honestly I place it at a level of strangeness in par with One Piece. For me the big difference is that I find One Piece a little silly and lacking in solid humor, whereas Toriko takes a much more direct and solid approach to its comedy and a somewhat over-the-top story line. This combination creates a mixture that both intrigues and satisfies at the same time.

Because of the length of the series there is plenty of story to tell and setting the basic plot in motion at the beginning is rather direct even if it ends up being sidetracked as things go on. This is indicative of the writing style for these types of series where the story is so crazy that it almost doesn’t make any sense. In this case this insanity works well and keeps working throughout.

Overall Grade: A-

Part of the quality of this series is the animation. The high quality and bold approach makes a Toriko stand out and easy to watch. The other strength to Toriko is the absolute stedfast storyline that takes our own effect ion to food and turns it into a battle story with a unusual approach to the characters.

I find Toriko easy to watch and also enjoy the strange quality to the story. All of the characters are rich and fully developed. Once all of these characteristics to are brought together we end up with a series that has a lot to offer. If there is a drawback to Toriko is has to be the strangeness of the story. In its strength is the one thing that can make it hard to follow and connect with. This effect is found in these series that push the boundaries and through reality out the window. Toriko does manage to make itself assessable and enjoyable. So, if you are looking for something that is over-the-top in strangeness but plan out fun to watch you should give this series a try.

Cuticle Detective Inaba The Complete Collection (anime review)

Cuticle Detective InabaTitle: Cuticle Detective Inaba The Complete Collection

Director: Susumu Nitsukawa

Studio: ZEXCS

Author: Mochi

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks / Section 23

Release Date: April 29th, 2014

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episode / 300 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Parody, Absurdity

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B-

Synopsis:

In a world where half-human, half-animal chimeras live and work alongside normal people, there are sure to be a few bad apples in the bunch. Unfortunately, criminals who are only half-human means there are often non-human clues that leave the police stumped. That’s where lone-wolf detective Hiroshi Inaba comes in. He’s literally part wolf and has the amazing ability to extract critical information just by examining or tasting a sample of someone’s hair!

Of course, that ability has also resulted in Inaba having a little bit of a hair fetish, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for his two assistants. Well, at least the cross-dressing one isn’t complaining much. And it’s nothing compared to the strange tastes of Inaba’s nemesis, the omnivorous, half-goat crime boss Don Valentino, who has an appetite for green legal tender instead of tender young greens!

Inaba’s sworn to cut Valentino out of the criminal flock before the Don can wolf down more ill-gotten dough, but he’s going to have to chew his way through a lot of evidence to get his goat. Can sheer dogged detective work put the baaaaad guys behind bars?

 

Commentary:

In a long line of parody series, Cuticle Detective Inaba comes out of the shoot blasting away with absurdity and parody. The silliness that ensues sticks with the series throughout. The rather odd group of characters that take us through this rather crazy show are at the core of the absurd humor and constantly prove to be over the top at every turn. This over the top approach is both the strength and weakness of the series. With the show being all about the humor I would say that it hits a home run because it is funny. But, on the other side of the coin this pushing the envelop of silliness also makes it very hard to stay with the series for any period of time. I enjoyed it and grew very tired of it at the same time. I know that this seems impossible, but after just a few minutes of the switch back and forth from real world and chibi world along with the change from the plot driven story to just flat out stupidity also tired met out.

As for the quality of the animation, I can say that ZEXCS does their standard fin job of bringing us a visually entertaining show. The look and feel of the animation styles fits perfectly with the series, but as with the writing and series itself the animation betrays the viewer by making it just a little too schizophrenic even with the humor being the star of the show.

Overall Grade: B-

There are plenty of other parodies out there that stand high in their way to both hit the high marks without being overly schizophrenic. If you look back at series like Stg. Frog or Lucky Star you get a good feeling of how this balance is created. Cuticle Detective Inaba brings home the humor so many fans love. So, if you are looking for a good laugh without any real emotional connection this series is for you.